the m john harrison blog

dying to be someone

Competent or not, the other four-year-olds were aggressively in charge of themselves: they did up their own coats. I let an adult do mine, so I could remain preoccupied by the colour of the buttons. At eight, I was staring into ponds, bemused by the way there seemed to be more clarity in the water than in the air. I became lodged in the moment and found it hard to move from one state to the next. By eleven I could imagine myself grown up, but only as someone who, reaching some undefined gate-level, had flipped into a completely novel state. Adulthood would happen to me, but not because of me. Unlike my friends I had put in place no strategy. Meanwhile, my parents and teachers were panicking. I was perfectly intelligent but if I carried on not connecting I would end up digging ditches. I reacted to that as an imposition. Arriving in their eighteenth year, no one could have been angrier, more confused or more directionless. One Sunday afternoon I stood at the side of the Lutterworth Road in the rain and stuck out my thumb. I was facing north. In two hours not a single vehicle stopped, but as soon as I crossed the road and faced back the way I had come, they were queuing up to take me home. I was relieved. I got a job in a hunting stable a few miles up the A5. Seven pounds a week. Shovelling shit was the nearest thing I could find to digging those ditches. With my first pay I bought objects I hoped would define me. A Dutch blanket, an ashtray with horses on it; a Ronson cigarette lighter. I was dying to be someone but I didnโ€™t know how.

an imaginary review

In this curiously involuted thriller of the near future, the father is not dead but absent, if only temporarily. The son must act for him, whether he wishes to or not. They exist in the most ideal loop of anxiety, the father a ghost in the son’s brain, the son a sub-routine of the father’s competence. They are a single entity, the hero only completed by his father’s wealth and prior achievement; the father present in the world only through his son’s ability to act in it. Whose anxiety is the greatest ? It is hardly possible to venture a guess. They describe between them not so much a main character as a desirable state, a circle whose perfection is forbidden to the son, no longer obtainable by the father.